Never Will I Ever: Toddler Thursday Edition

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Do you remember the drinking party game Never Have I Ever? I was part of a group of friends in college who loved to waste away long winter nights playing this game. It was a fun way to get to know someone you had a crush on or just learn new and interesting things about friends.  If you’ve never played let me quickly catch you up: You all sit in a circle.  The first person makes a statement beginning with “Never have I ever…” If you’ve done it you take a drink you’re out. The object isn’t necessarily to be last person standing, but rather to be the person to create the most awkward social situations.

Before I had the twins I had several very basic parenting standards.  When it was just the three bigs (that’s what I call my older three sons) it was so easy to adhere to them that I really didn’t even know I had them.  They were almost “parenting givens”.  Then Laurel and Rhodes turned two.  Now I have no standards.  Seriously.  They have won every round of “Never Will I Ever…” we have engaged in. They are masters at creating awkward social situations.  Let me show you:

Never Will I Ever buy a toddler something just to stop a tantrum.”  In December my two oldest sons needed new shoes. I hauled everyone into the shoe store and set up camp in the aisle with the “almost man” sizes.  Laurel and Rhodes were playing happily in the same aisle so I was lulled into thinking it was ok for me to look away.  Rookie mistake.  I looked up and Laurel was gone.  We split up to find her perusing the clearance racks having chosen a new pair of very sparkly, very pink, 1 size too big, hello kitty, slip on shoes for herself.  When we found her she was clutching them to her chest and had her eyes closed in reverence.  She was in love.  I admired the shoes and calmly told her that it wasn’t her turn for new shoes and we needed to put them back.  She opened one eye and stated “IS my turn. MY shoes. YOU go.” and turned her back to me.  The three bigs were standing behind me and I could hear them start backing away and begin silently putting away the shoe boxes we were done with. Rhodes summed it up with an “Uh Oh”. They knew what was brewing.  I got down on my knees and softly asked her to put the pretty shoes back.  She started shaking her head as tears were rolling down her cheeks. I asked her one more time.  After she still didn’t move to put the shoes back I reached for them.  Before I could touch them she began shrieking. It was a sound straight from Hell. It was loud, high, and unending. The screaming was so disorienting I almost couldn’t figure out what had happened.  Laurel was backing into a storage room (still clutching her precious shoes and still shrieking) and looking at me as if I was coming to eat her. I grabbed her, grabbed my purse, and called to the bigs to get their shoes and meet me at the cashier.  Sweet little Rhodes had found a display of koosh balls and was quietly rummaging through the bin (we won’t discuss why a shoe store had these for sale). As I called for him to come with us to the register he began whimpering and whining for a ball.  At this point sweat was dripping down my back and Laurel was still shrieking while I held her horizontally across both my arms.  “OK, Rhodes.  Bring a ball.  Let’s just GO!” When I finally make it to the register the cashier asks if I would like her to put the Hello Kitty shoes away.  “No, No, I wouldn’t.”     Twins: 1    Mom: 0

“Never Will I Ever have a car so dirty it’s embarrassing… or a health hazard”.   In January I decided to get a car wash.  Before pulling in I made sure to stop at a gas station and do a quick clean up so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed when dropping it off.  After choosing a wash and paying I made my way to the waiting area which happened to be right next to the vacuums. I glanced over and saw that the man who had been vacuuming my car had stopped and was now pulling on gloves. I mentally shrugged my shoulders and assumed he must have been cold.  Then I paused and looked again… he hadn’t put on leather or wool gloves.  He’d put on LATEX gloves.  That’s right.  The carwash man had been so disgusted by the state of my captain’s chairs he’d felt the need to protect himself from communicable diseases. Guess who sits in that part of my suburban? My precious goldfish crunching, apple juice swilling, milkshake spilling, tissue needing toddlers.      Twins: 2  Mom: 0

  • “Never Will I Ever feel the need to host every playdate at my house for the rest of my children’s lives.”  When the twins were infants I usually invited friends to our house for playdates because it was more convenient.  I didn’t have to haul my giant twin nursing pillow to someone’s house.  When the babies were sleepy I could put them down in their own beds.  I didn’t have to worry about putting on real clothes.  Now I usually invite friends to our house for playdates because I have more control over the environment thus reducing the potential for humiliation. After finding myself in the following scenarios I’ve learned my lesson:
  • Twin locks themselves in bathroom
  • Twin found in teen’s bedroom trying on their new lip gloss
  • Twin rummages through refrigerator and helps themselves to pre-prepared lunch
  •  Twin found in bathroom brushing teeth with husband’s toothbrush
  • Twin grabs host’s coffee and pours onto pristine white carpet

Thank goodness my friends were gracious and able to see the humor in these situations.           Twins: 376  Mom: 0

Never Did I Ever think having two toddlers would be this hard… or this funny! I am so fascinated by these two little people.  While learning how to navigate this big world they are having two totally different reactions to the very same situations.  That is bound to leave this mama in some seriously crazy circumstances!

Tell me about a situation you never thought you’d find yourself in.  Ready to play Never Will I Ever?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twinfant Tuesday: The Tale of the Holiday Girl

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Once upon a time there was a girl who loooooved the holidays.  She loved the decorating and cooking.  She couldn’t wait to wrap and bake.  She enjoyed every part of the holidays: the smells, the planning, the parties, the crafting.  She loved it all!  When The Holiday Girl grew up she had lots of babies.  At first she had them one at a time.  Three little boys came all in a row.  Thankfully, her babies loved to snuggle so she’d wear them close to her heart and still get to enjoy her favorite time of the year. One cold February day The Holiday Girl got the best Valentine’s Day surprise ever! She found out she was having twins! Twins could only make the holidays better! She thought about tiny pilgrim hats and little stockings.  She dreamed of 2 extra place settings at the Thanksgiving table and 2 tiny twin themed Christmas trees. The birth came and went and finally the babies’ first holidays were approaching.  The Holiday Girl was beside herself! Oh the plans she had! So much cooking, and crafting, and shopping; she couldn’t even sleep from the excitement.  But something odd was happening. The closer Thanksgiving got the more anxious The Holiday Girl became.  Where she was usually calm and happy this year she felt overwhelmed and frazzled.  Nothing was going as planned.  She couldn’t get the shopping done, because the babies wouldn’t settle for a nap. She struggled to finish the adorable placemats she was making because the babies always wanted to nurse.  Forget about making extra pies for the older boys’ teachers she was drowning in laundry.  The Holiday Girl was sad and grouchy and confused. “Let us help” said her family. “What can we do?” asked her friends.  “No and Nothing” The Holiday Girl always replied.  She struggled to finish her to do lists and finally Thanksgiving Day came.  The Holiday Girl woke up extra early in anticipation of the extra time she would need for the babies.  By 10:30 she was sweating and no where close to on schedule.  Guests would be arriving and she had no appetizers and was still dressed in her pajamas. This wouldn’t do.  This wasn’t the way The Holiday Girl hosted events. Somehow Thanksgiving dinner got made but The Holiday Girl didn’t enjoy cooking it.  She was angry to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else was enjoying the day.  Somehow she set the table, but The Holiday Girl was so frazzled that she forgot to use the placemats she had fretted over getting done.  The dishes were washed and dessert was served, but neither task was done with the usual care and love The Holiday Girl normally completed them with.  All she could think about was how much work everything was and how tired she felt.  At the end of the day when the house was asleep The Holiday Girl replayed the day in her mind. She realized she hadn’t taken one single picture.  She hadn’t noticed how the babies reacted to the house full of people.  She hadn’t watched the cousins play together or the grandparents enjoy the new twins.  She’d missed everything.  She’d missed her babies’ first Thanksgiving.  The Holiday Girl realized right then that Christmas would have to be different.  And so it was.

I have a confession to make.  I’m The Holiday Girl and I missed my twins first Thanksgiving because I wouldn’t ask for help.  Looking back I realize that the only time I interacted with the babies that day was when they wanted to nurse.  As soon as they were done I passed them to the nearest adult and scurried back to the kitchen.  I still cringe when I think about that.

If you are a MoM with new multiples don’t worry! I’ve come up with 4 questions you can ask yourself to ensure you don’t become The Holiday Girl:

  1. Who can I ask for help? Be creative. Do you know someone with a tween that would like to earn some extra money by wrapping your gifts? Know anyone with teen boys that could pick up a Christmas Tree for you, hang lights, get your holiday décor down from the attic?  What about a teenager or young adult who could fight the Thanksgiving crowds and do your grocery shopping for you? Use Facebook as your job board.  Post what tasks you’d like help with and see who’s interested.  You’ll be surprised who answers.
  2. What can I give up now and start again later?  If you usually host Thanksgiving would someone else mind doing it this year? Advent calendars are adorable and fun, but can be a lot of work to set up.  Do you really need to use every box of decorations or could just putting up a tree work for this year? It’s hard not to be emotional when it comes to holiday traditions. It can feel like you’re losing an old friend. Try to remember that the babies will be older next year and you can add back what you missed.
  3. What shortcuts can I take? Grandma’s sugar cookie recipe is amazing but it’s messy and time consuming.  What about Easy Bake cookies this year? Could you order your side dishes from a deli or restaurant? Instead of Christmas Cards with envelopes try postcards – no stuffing  When you have infant multiples time is a luxury. Don’t waste it on things that aren’t really important to you.
  4. Do I have realistic expectations?  How much traveling can you reasonably do this year? How many guests can you accommodate? Having more than one infant makes everything more complicated. Be kind to yourselves and commit to doing less than what you feel capable of.  When you’re tired and anxious about getting your to do list finished you will be glad you didn’t sign up for more.

The holidays are such a magical time when you have a house full of babies! Keeping things simple and asking for help will make sure that you won’t miss a moment. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Twin Toddlers: Wishful Thinking

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I have recurring daydream.  It’s not reminiscent of fifty shades of whatever or spending the day at the spa alone.  It’s not having a chef and personal trainer.  It’s not being given the vacation of a lifetime or a shopping spree for a whole new wardrobe.  In my dream I’m gifted a service dog.  Yep, you read that right.  I want a twin wrangling, sanity saving, furry friend. I long for a gorgeous, well trained German Shepard named Gretchen.  I know I could hire a mother’s helper, but wouldn’t it would be so much simpler to just yell “Go, Gretchen!”?  Gretchen and I would be a team. We would work together to conquer this mess of toddlerness named Laurel and Rhodes.

There is nothing I hate more than the in and out routine associated with car seats.  It’s even more painful when there are two car seats to unfasten and refasten.  And let’s not even talk about how frustrating it is when the errand I’m running is quicker than it takes me to get both toddlers out of their car seats and buckled into their stroller (which is made so much harder because they insist on flopping around like catfish out of water).  If I had Gretchen she could stand guard over the twins while I ran my quick errand, or better yet, SHE could run my errand for me.  Gretchen could fetch my preschooler from his class and bring him to the car, she could mail the package, she could buy diapers.  Ok, maybe not buy diapers, but you get the drift.

Rhodes and Laurel are notorious for wandering away.  They don’t do this in the traditional toddler fashion where you see your child getting a little too far away and you can call to them.  My duo has mastered what I call the Ninja Stealth Wander.  I’ll give you an example that happened today.  I was checking out at the dentist office and the twins were literally standing on my feet.  Like right on my feet.  Hurting my toes.  I passed my debit card across the counter, looked down, and they were gone.  Poof! It hadn’t been more than 45 seconds since I’d seen them.  Right as I start to get alarmed a technician turns the corner with the twins.  She’d found them trying to get a drink from the water fountain.  Gretchen would have never allowed that to happen.  She would instinctively grab any toddler that wanders further than arm’s length away from me.  She would also know to grab any twin walking into a mud puddle, or accepting a blue snow cone.

How many times have you gotten situated to change a diaper or start the nap time routine only to find you’re missing one crucial item?  You know if you get up it means both toddlers will also get up and then you’ll have to play Catch the Twin all over again.  My ever helpful Gretchen would be able to bring me the blankey or the wipes in these situations.  This skill would also prove useful in the evenings when I’m just too exhausted to get the corkscrew or chocolate.

I freely admit that I rely on technology to entertain the masses when I get overwhelmed or have a task I really need to get done.  While this isn’t ideal, there are so many quality apps and videos available I never hardly feel any guilt over it.  Keeping the devices working and charged is a challenge for me.  With five kids in the family chargers get lost and screens get shattered on a semi regular basis.  It’s a frustrating and expensive problem.  In my daydreams Gretchen has the ability sniff out lost chargers and swoop in to catch devices before they hit the floor.

Having a toddler is hard.  Having twin toddlers (or more) is exponentially more difficult.  Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate seem to come with the territory.  While I may not have a Gretchen to relieve some of the stress, indulging in the occasional off the wall daydream and keeping my sense of humor help keep things in perspective.  This time is short. Try to roll with it and be kind to yourself. We are all doing the very best we can.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Congratulations!

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Dear MoM to be,

Congratulations! You’ve recently found out your expecting multiples! The shock has worn off (a little) and if you’re like most MoMs you’ve now entered the Must Find All the Information Mode.  This where you begin frantically googling things like:

  • Twin pregnancy tummy- images
  • How soon do twins sleep through the night?
  • Can I afford electricity and diapers for twins?
  • Nursing twins-really?

All joking aside I bet you’re a big mess of happy, worried, scared , and excited.  We’ve all been there.  Crying one minute and smiling the next is completely normal.  You’re about to experience pregnancy and parenthood in a very unique and wonderful way.  You’ll wish you had other MoMs to talk to and confide in- Don’t worry you’ll find them.  Until you do, here’s some advice I wish I’d been given at the beginning of my pregnancy.

When you’re announcing your pregnancy you’ll find parents of singletons saying adorable things like “Better you than me” and “Ugh, I’m so sorry!”.  Parents of multiples will squeal with glee, crush you in a hug, and make you a list of all the MoMs groups in your area.  Take comfort in the fact that those with actual experience in parenting multiples are the ones excited for you.  They know what you’re facing and how amazing it is.

I know you’re wondering and the answer is YES!  Your belly is going to get huge.  Bigger than you can even imagine.  Bigger than the maternity clothes sold in most stores can handle.  Even more shocking is that you will grow to miss this belly.  My twins are almost two and I’ve just recently started pining for my pregnant belly.  I look at pictures of myself pregnant and wish I could feel my sweet babies bump around inside me one more time. You won’t want to, but please take lots of pictures.  Document the amazingness of your body.

I didn't take many pictures of my growing belly. This selfie was taken at 30 weeks.

Caring for newborn multiples is hard.  Harder than anyone can prepare you for.  Give yourself permission now to do what works in the moment.  My twins slept in their swings until they were 9 months old.  That’s right… 9 months.  If I wanted to sleep (and oh how I did) then they had to be swinging.  The only reason they moved to cribs was because they got so heavy the swings stopped working (that was a sad, sad day). Throw out your books, plans, and ideas of how things “should” be.  Start practicing your mantra “Whatever works NOW”.

Enjoy long showers and baths, eat hot meals, and wear clean clothes now.  Once the babies come these will all become luxuries.  This sounds horrible and awful but I promise you won’t mind (much).  The first year with your multiples will most likely be a blur.  I have some very distinct memories that I cherish, but mostly what I remember is a feeling.  I was sleepy, overwhelmed, and so very happy.

Practice walking briskly while smiling and nodding.  This is how you will maneuver through all public spaces for the next two years.  The  amount of comments you are receiving right now about your growing belly will multiply by a million when you have infant multiples in tow.  Don’t stop, don’t engage, don’t make eye contact.  I’m kidding… just prepare yourself.  You will attract attention and people will  love to talk about your babies.  Sometimes this will bother you and sometimes it won’t.

This last one is a biggie…  You probably have some very specific fears regarding your pregnancy and postpartum period.  You may worry that you’ll end up on bed rest or that you won’t be able to nurse your babies.  As scary and awful as these things seem I promise you that if they do occur you will handle it.  You will rise up to the challenge and do what needs to be done.  Parents of multiples are a unique breed.  We are a resilient and creative bunch.  We figure things out and make it work.  YOU are now a part of this group which means you are more than capable of conquering your fear.  I had two worries during my pregnancy: that I might have to have a C section and that the babies would potentially have NICU stays. I have 3 other children and thinking about managing babies in the hospital with the needs of my kids at home scared me. Both of those things happened.  I gave birth vaginally to Laurel and had Rhodes by C section 40 minutes later.  To add to the fun my epidural wasn’t working so I had to be put totally asleep for Rhodes’ birth.  My babies were born at 34 weeks and had to stay in the NICU for 2 weeks.  It was a rough time, but my husband and I pulled together and did it.  You can handle whatever this phase of life throws at you.

My sweet Rhodes in the NICU.
My sweet Rhodes in the NICU.

Please enjoy this time, sweet MoM.  You have so many happy and exciting things ahead of you.

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Love,

Elizabeth, Laurel, and Rhodes

 

What advice do you wish you could give your pregnant self?

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Toddler Thursday: Two vs. One

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Don’t hate me, but I love toddlers.  Yes, there are tantrums and days full of “I do it!”, but there are also hugs around your knees and the adorable language I call “toddlereese”. I was an early childhood education major in college and spent many years teaching young children before I became a mom.  These experiences helped me immensely when my other three children were toddlers, so much so, that this stage has always been my favorite. Then I had twins.  They are 19 months old and I am tired. Just for fun I used my Iphone to record our morning.  I won’t bore you with the video or the entire morning, but here’s a transcription of part of it:

It’s 8:00 and Oliver, my 4 year old, is due at school at 9:30. I still have to get myself, Oliver, and my 19 month old twins dressed.  I’m already feeling frazzled and I’ve only been awake 30 minutes. So far I’ve fed all five kids and have kissed my older two boys goodbye as they left for school with their dad. I meant to wake up earlier so I could get myself ready in peace, but Rhodes slept with us last night and kicked and squirmed so much I didn’t sleep well. When my alarm went off I opted for 30 more minutes of sleep.

8:05 I’m standing at my sink brushing my teeth while Oliver is taking a shower. Laurel has toddled into the bedroom and is rummaging through my night stand. Rhodes is standing at my feet whining to be picked up.

8:07 Oliver has gotten soap in this eyes and is screaming. Rhodes is still whining and Laurel comes back from the bedroom covered in cuticle oil.

8:08 I grab Laurel and put her into the shower with Oliver. I’m rinsing Oliver’s face and hair when Rhodes’ whining escalates into crying. I glance at him to find he’s hit himself in the mouth with my hairbrush and has a bloody lip.

8:09 After a quick cuddle I put Rhodes in the shower too and cross my fingers that it will clean off the blood and keep him entertained long enough that I can get dressed. It’s at this point I’ve realized the extra 30 minutes of sleep weren’t worth it.

8:10 I’m in my closet trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans that I swear fit last week (Darn Easter candy). I make them work and throw on a blousy shirt in hopes of hiding the muffin top my now too tight jeans have caused. I do some lunges on my way out of the closet. Yay! Multitasking! I’m exercising and stretching my jeans!

8:11 All three kids are playing so I take the opportunity to throw on my makeup. I realize that Rhodes has chewed on all my makeup brushes and they are wet and gross. I use my fingers to apply eye makeup and blush.

8:13 My hair is too dirty to pull back but there is no time to wash it. I briefly toy with the idea of using one of Laurel’s head bands to hide my roots and greasy part. I decide I’m too old for that and use a bobby pin to pull just my bangs back.

8:14 The water has gotten cold so all three kids are fussing to get out.

8:15 While I’m getting Laurel out and dried off Oliver escapes and runs thru the house soaking wet.

8:17 Both twins are dry and as I’m walking them to their room to get them dressed I slip in a puddle of water. My bottom hurts and the twins are crying because I yelped when I fell.

8:18 We make it to the twins room and Oliver joins us. He’s still naked and is fussing because he wants to play on his older brother’s Itouch. I try to ignore him while I’m picking out clothes.

8:20 Rhodes and Oliver are now dressed but Laurel is nowhere to be found.

8:21 I find Laurel in the utility room eating dog food.

8:22 Laurel is throwing a fit because I’ve disturbed her second breakfast and Oliver is still whining. Rhodes is pushing cars around the playroom.

8:24 I’ve given in to Oliver and allowed him to play with the iPod Touch. Laurel is dressed but now Rhodes is crying about another bloody lip. He was crawling too fast, fell on his face, and bumped his lip on the car he was pushing.

8:26 Rhodes is calm. Oliver is calm. Laurel has once again disappeared.

8:27 I find Laurel in the bathroom where she is happily shredding toilet paper. I decide the mess is worth the peace and go looking for our shoes.

8:30 Victory! Everyone but Oliver has on shoes. He is pouting because I can’t find his Buzz Light Year socks.

8:33 Negotiations are complete. I’ve convinced Oliver to wear plain socks in exchange for allowing him to play with the Itouch in the car on the way to school.

8:34 The twins are gone. The house is quiet. This. Is. Bad.

8:35 I find them both outside. They have crawled through the pet door and are splashing in the bird bath.

8:40 I have wrestled the twins into new clothes. I’m sweating and grouchy. If I hurry I can make a cup of coffee to take with me.

8:42 I put all three kids in front of Curious George and head to the pantry.

8:43 Oliver is screaming because the Itouch’s battery is dead. Rhodes is screaming because Oliver is screaming. Laurel is in the pantry looking for cookies.

8:44 I’m charging the Itouch and holding Rhodes. Laurel has decided a cereal bar will work since we have no cookies. She has squished it while bringing it to me so when I open the package the bar crumbles to the floor.

8:45 Laurel is on the floor rolling around in cereal bar crumbs crying for cookies. I decide to not change her out of the sticky, crumb covered clothes.

8:47 I’m now holding Laurel and Rhodes and trying to put a coffee pod into my Kureig using my teeth. The twins explode into giggles.

8:50 Coffee’s made and we are on the way to the car. Everyone is happy!

8:51 I drop my bag and as I bend over to get it I spill coffee all over my shirt. I briefly contemplate sucking it out of the fabric.

8:53 Oliver is buckled into his seat. The twins have decided it’s time to ride bikes and are fighting over a ride on toy. Rhodes pushes Laurel and she is MAD. I scoop her up just as she’s lunging to bite him.

8:56 The twins are buckled into their seats but are not happy about it. Laurel is screaming for cookies and Rhodes is screaming because he can.

8:58 Silence. Everyone is watching the video and we are finally on our way.

I’m sure many of you a shaking your heads and smiling because you have been there. You know how it feels to run from one problem to the next all while trying to keep the day moving and actually be productive.

This post is so funny and painfully true. One morning with toddlers is a messy sticky comedy of errors!

There are several universal truths to parenting toddlers. These apply whether you have one or five. All parents of children this age can relate to these things:

There is a constant battle between independence and needing/wanting to be cared for.  It’s hard for them to decide what stance they want to take in any given situation and it’s even harder for parents to read what their child wants.  What’s ok one day just might not be the next

You will witness wonderful creativity. I’m always amazed how toddlers can turn anything into a toy or game.  I watched Rhodes play this afternoon with a cup, bowl of water, and a rock for over 30 minutes. Never underestimate their ability to entertain themselves without toys or technology.

Toddlers crave and respond to routine. The need for a schedule doesn’t stop at the end of infancy. Knowing what to expect and what’s coming next is reassuring to children of this age.  I find when I stick to our routine that tantrums are greatly diminished.

Parenting toddler multiples is very different.  I was naïve and really celebrated when my twins turned one.  I remember telling a friend “They are sleeping through the night, nursing is done, and they are learning to walk and talk. Things are bound to get easier now.” So far that hasn’t happened.

Parenting twin and singleton toddlers  are distinct experiences.

Here are the ways I find parenting toddler multiples different than singletons: Whether you admit it or not you are always comparing them. When I was parenting my singleton toddlers comparisons usually happened at playgroups or in online forums.  The anxiety of “Why aren’t they____?” was usually confined to that situation or to the few moments I’d spend replaying my day.  Now I find myself not only constantly comparing them, but also trying to compensate for imaginary weaknesses.  For example Laurel’s language is very advanced.  Her adjusted age is only 17 months and she’s already stringing together words to make sentences. Rhodes isn’t doing this.  He knows several words, but isn’t close to speaking in sentences. His speech is exactly where it should be for his adjusted age, but I find myself grabbing a book and pulling him into my lap more often than I do Laurel.  I’m constantly repeating his gibberish back to him correctly and engaging him in songs. None of this is done intentionally and I know I’m intuitively trying to encourage his language development because his sister’s is so advanced. If he was a singleton the poor kid wouldn’t be subjected to my constant singing and chattering.

Everything is more.  The noise, the mess, the laundry, the…   you get the point.  Laurel is a screecher and Rhodes is a yeller. Happy, sad, mad, all require screeching and yelling.  My house regularly sounds like a pet store.  Double the toddlers means the playroom regularly looks like tornado hit it. Unfortunately both twins are “dumpers”. They love nothing more than to walk up to a basket of toys and dump it out.  They don’t do this to look for a specific item.  They just enjoy pouring all the toys. When you have one child that screeches or pours toys it’s annoying.  When you have two a bad day can bring you to your knees.

Outings require pickiness.  I have a friend whom I love dearly but I will not bring the twins to her house.  She has an elderly grouchy dog, a very tall slide, and a sunken living room.  With one toddler I could manage all these variables by keeping the child in my line of sight.  With two toddlers who are inevitably drawn to different areas I just can’t do it.  I’ve also run into this when choosing parks and restaurants with out door seating (is it fenced?).  Any place I’m going to have to follow them around in order for them to be safe is out.

Confinement is necessary. My morning adventures would have been much easier if I could have gotten us ready to go out from our playroom.  We have put a lot of time and effort into making it a room that is comfortable for adults as well as fun and safe for the twins. There is really nothing they can do to hurt themselves while playing in it. The furniture is bolted to the walls, all outlets are covered, the floor is soft, and most importantly they can’t go in separate directions.  It’s so nice to have a place where we can spend time and the twins will be safe without me needing to be in two places at once.

You can’t mess with naps. When my singletons were toddlers there were times when I’d force them to make do with a nap in the car or go without one altogether.  I’d pack lots of snacks and expect to have to keep them really busy. Most of the time this would work and we’d get to enjoy whatever event was happening during their nap time.  Unless it’s a once in a lifetime event or an emergency I won’t do this with the twins.  Not much is worth the risk of potentially having two tantruming toddlers.

Toddler relationships  Children of this age generally don’t play together.  They usually engage in parallel play (side by side) or spectator play (observing and mimicking).  Very rarely will two toddlers actually interact during the same activity.  Laurel and Rhodes play together.  They will roll balls or cars together or look at the same book and chatter to one another about it.  It’s amazing and adorable. I have to say that this is my favorite part of this stage.  I love watching them interact.

This season of my life is challenging to say the least.  It’s full of rushing, managing, planning, and adjusting. Despite these difficulties I can’t remember a time I’ve been happier.  Rhodes and Laurel are amazing and I’m so blessed to call them mine.

What differences have you seen raising singleton toddlers vs. multiple toddlers? 

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The Twinkle Diaries

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Take Kids Swimming: Jump Right In!

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Living in Texas, water has always been a big part of our family life. Our summers have always centered around boat rides on the lake, splash parks, running through sprinklers and days at the pool.

I usually long for summer, but this year I’ve been dreading it (and not just because I didn’t want to shove this postpartum body into a bathing suit). I have 3 boys plus the twins and the thought of taking all 5 to the pool by myself scared me. Two of my boys can swim, but O is only 3 and is too confident to be smart around water so I resigned myself to only going swimming when I had my husband’s help. I quickly changed my mind after spending one of his on call weekends at home trying to keep everyone entertained. I spent the next week thinking, planning, and browsing the summer section at Target. When I finally felt comfortable I braved the pool.

That’s right. I took five kids swimming. Here’s what happened:

Swimming supplies

My plan: I had intended to get O a life jacket, but he took one look at one and bluntly said “no”. The thought of wrestling him into a life jacket every time we went to the pool didn’t appeal to me so I went with a puddle jumper. I looked at two types of floats for the babies. One had a small inflatable center that was surrounded by a mesh ring. The second type needed to be completely inflated and was much bigger. I chose two mesh floats with detachable sun shades. The package said “easy to fold and carry” and they looked like they’d be a snap to untwist and use. I also purchased them a double stroller with a huge sun shade that was big enough to even keep their feet out of the sun. In an effort to make the older boys easy to spot I bought them neon green rash guards.

What worked: The puddle jumper is awesome! O wears it happily and it allows him to keep up with his big brothers in the deeper areas of the pool. The rash guards are great. They are so bright I can easily spot the boys from across the pool and can even see them while they are under water. The double stroller’s sunshade has been so helpful. It keeps the babies cool and has an added bonus of blocking what the babies can see. There have already been several times where I was able to put the babies in the stroller with the shade down and have them nap at the pool.

Will and Rhodes. Check out W's cheesy grin and super bright rash guard.
Will and Rhodes. Check out W’s cheesy grin and super bright rash guard.

What didn’t work: The mesh floats were a total fail. They are too bulky to carry unfolded and once they are inflated and wet they are impossible to fold small enough to put them back in their case. While both babies were heavy enough (according to the float’s specifications) Rhodes seemed too light. He kept slipping down and his mouth would inevitably end up in the water. I tried several positions but I just couldn’t make it work for him.

Managing the babies before getting into the pool

My plan: I wanted to do as much as possible at home / in the car so when we got into the pool I could focus completely on supervising the kids. My plan was to apply all sunscreen at home and bring spray with us for touch ups. I also wanted to change the babies into their swim diapers and swimsuits in the car and put O in his puddle jumper in the parking lot.

What worked: Changing the babies and putting the puddle jumper on O while we were still in the car. We were able to walk right into the pool and start playing and I didn’t have to worry about the kids getting into the pool without supervision.

What didn’t work: The sunscreen. Our first trip to the pool was 3 weeks ago and my car’s interior still has streaks of greasy sunscreen in some spots. I now do faces at home and put an older boy in charge of spraying arms and legs when we are at the pool.

Managing the babies while in the water

My plan: To use the floats or pull the double stroller close to the edge of the pool (with the brake on) and only take out one baby at a time.

What worked: The stroller has been great.  I can play with one baby at a time while safely watching the other kids. I’ve learned that if I put diluted juice in a sippy cup (we usually just fill them with water) the novelty of having juice will keep the baby in the stroller entertained and happy.

The babies using their floats. See how low Rhodes is? We haven't used them much since.
The babies using their floats. See how low Rhodes is? We haven’t used them much since.

What didn’t work: The floats. If both babies want to be in the pool at the same time I must have another set of hands. I’m simply not comfortable having both babies in the water by myself.


Since having the twins I’ve realized that we can still get out and do things, I just have to adjust, plan, and be willing to try. While I’m pretty proud that I’ve been able to manage the pool, I’ve had to concede that it’s just not something we can do every day like in past summers. While the kids love going it isn’t a relaxing time for me anymore. I’m constantly counting heads to make sure everyone is safe and the amount of effort it takes to get everyone ready and gather all the needed supplies is exhausting. Even though we won’t be visiting the pool as often this summer we have still found ways to play and stay cool. We’ve had really good times at the local splash pools, had too many snow cones to count, and the babies are always happy to splash in a tub of water.

The babies love this water table. I removed the legs to make it safer.
The babies love this water table. I removed the legs to make it safer.

 

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Elizabeth’s Story: Why I Can’t Eat King Cake — Out and About After Miscarriage

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From HDYDI author Elizabeth.

It’s Fat Tuesday, 2005. I’m sitting in the teachers’ lounge of the elementary school where I teach. Not in the mood to talk, I’m grading papers as I eat. It’s common knowledge among the staff that I’ve recently had two miscarriages and that I’m still feeling fragile.  From the other end of the table I hear my name called and look up to see the tiny gold baby from the king cake being slid to me.  “Here, Elizabeth! It’s a baby. Now you can be happy!” Everyone at the table claps and laughs. I plaster on a fake smile, pick up my prize, say thank you and spend the next several minutes trying not to cry. Eventually the room clears and it’s only my principal and I at the table.  She grabs my hand and softly says, “They don’t know.” We sit in silence until it’s time for us to leave.

At the time her statement made me angry.  I knew she had suffered from secondary infertility. She often told me that she was praying for me and offered words of encouragement and hope. I trusted her and looked up to her.  I knew she understood my broken heart and her words left me feeling betrayed.   In my mind there was no excuse for the teasing I’d experienced. Their words and laughter were insensitive. They should know better, and she shouldn’t make excuses for them.  I added her comment and the tiny baby to my ever growing list of things that hurt and offended me.

My list was long and varied.  All pregnant women, all women who had been pregnant or thought about being pregnant, ads for baby items, ads including babies, strollers, car seats, cars with strollers and/or car seats were all on my list.  Also included were baby showers, first birthday parties, the colors pink and blue, the word bump, and comments such as : “I’m a mom.” and “I have kids“.  Everywhere I looked I saw babies, families, and pregnant women. It seemed that every conversation centered around babies, and stories of labor and delivery. I felt left out and slighted.  Every comment was a slap. I took it all to heart and every bit of it personally.

A heart broken by infertility colors the world.

Five kids and eight years later I have the gift of perspective.  It’s obvious to me now that my broken heart colored things. My sweet friend was right; unless you have encountered infertility or loss you can’t know.  It’s an experience that requires grace in order to survive. You must give it to yourself and extend it to others.

Be gentle with yourself. It doesn’t matter how long you grieve or how angry you get. You feel how you feel. Embrace it. It’s ok to skip the baby shower and to look away from the pregnant women you see.  Just as important is making the decision to believe that people mean well.  For the most part people care and really don’t intend to be hurtful. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

While I still dislike king cake, I’ve made peace with the little gold baby living in my jewelry box and the people who gave him to me. Unlike the truly insensitive colleagues that planned another teacher’s baby shower in front of me, I know the “king cake crew” was just trying to make me laugh. I wish I could have saved my tears for the times that truly warranted them. I know that my journey would have felt a lot less lonely.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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Letting Go

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It’s 4 a.m. and I’m standing in my dark closet jiggling two screaming babies in their pack n plays.

It has been a long day full of crying and feelings of failure. I’m so very sleepy and so very lonely. The babies are now five months old and my “How to Teach Your Twins to Sleep So They Won’t Be Forever Screwed Up” book has said they should no longer be sleeping in their swings. I suspected as much and after my reading confirmed it, I’ve spent all day trying to get two very over tired infants to sleep in their pack n plays.

To say it’s not going well would be a gross understatement. I have read and researched and swayed and swaddled and am DONE.

In a snit I grab the babies and stomp to the swings in the other room. After being strapped in both babies give a huge sigh and promptly fall asleep.  At this point I’m too wound up to sleep.

My mind is racing…What am I doing??? Both babies take great naps in their swings and give me decent stretches at night.  Until today I haven’t felt all that tired and have been enjoying my babies. As I reach over to turn off the light I catch a glimpse of the author’s face on the back of the book.  And where is he?  Probably snuggled in his warm bed sleeping soundly.  I bet he’s snoring.  He should have been in the closet helping me jiggle.  He should be bringing me chocolate and telling me I’m doing a great job. What a jerk.

I get back out of bed and throw the book in the trash. The next day I move the babies’ swings back to my closet (the only quiet dark place away from the business of our house) and decide that’s where they’ll stay until they stop sleeping well in them.

Letting goI realize I’d fallen into the “I’ve never had multiples so they must know better” trap.  This is similar to the “I’ve never had a baby before”  line of thinking that tripped me up with my first son. The books and experts stressed me out then too. They did nothing but make me crazy as I could rarely get my oldest to fall in line with what they considered normal or healthy. I’d successfully avoided them with my second and third children, but the twin section in the bookstore got the better of me. Parenting multiples is hard, but reading conflicting advice from “experts” (who many times don’t have multiples themselves) doesn’t make it any easier.

What has made it easier is learning to let it go.

“It” is different for everyone.  For me it’s the expectations I have about situations. For example, dinner time has completely changed since the twins have come home. I know the importance of a family dinner and have figured out a way to have one that works for us.  My husband’s schedule is unpredictable so waiting for him to eat with us is next to impossible. My kids are hungry early and the babies are terribly fussy from 4:00 until bedtime. It’s hard for me to juggle cooking, homework, nursing, toddler tantrums, and bedtime by myself so I’ve adjusted. I’m using the crock pot a lot and have started considering a plate full of healthy snack items or smoothies a suitable dinner.

The kids do homework while we eat (we call it having a working dinner) and I go back and forth between the babies and the table.  It’s not a traditional dinner time but it’s working.  I get to eat with my kids, help with homework, and the babies get my attention. I consider that a win for everyone.

Letting go can be hard.

I still struggle with it, and at times even fight it. I’ve had to rethink issues I’ve felt strongly about and restructure times that have worked for me in the past.  When I finally do give in and adjust I always find that whatever issue I’m dealing with improves.  Would I like the babies to be out of my closet and out of their swings? Sure, but without a lot of fuss and frustration that’s not going to happen right now. Does it bother me that I’ve knowingly created a habit that will be really hard to break? Absolutely, but with 3 other kids to care for I have to go with what gets everyone the most sleep. When the sleeping stops I’ll deal with it.

Until then I’m letting it go.

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Ask the Moms: Multiples and Birthday Party Etiquette

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Categories Ask the Moms, Birthdays, Multiple SolutionsTags , , 11 Comments

For party throwers | For party goers

Mother of triplets Jenn reached out us with this question:

My triplets are turning 5 and would like to have a party inviting their classroom friends.  They are in the same class.  I cannot expect every guest to bring 3 gifts. I know you mentioned NO presents as an option but at 5 they are really looking forward to having their first birthday party with not just family but friends too and being able to open their classmates’ gifts!

I’m sure that this cannot be an uncommon problem for mothers of multiples!

Jenn, we’re so glad you asked about this. It’s not just a quandary for the parents throwing the party for multiples, but a common question for the parents of singleton guests too! There’s also the matter of attending a singleton’s party with your multiples. Are you expected to give a separate gift from each child, or is it okay to give one from the family?

When You’re Throwing a Party for Your Birthday Children

Above all, be considerate of your guests as Jenn is being. If you know that every guest you have invited has the resources to give extravagant gifts to each child and that is your community expectation, good for you. For most of us, that’s not the case.

Talk to your children ahead of time and explain to them that the real gift is their friends’ presence. They shouldn’t express disappointment at gifts, even if they feel it, and they should be certain to say “Thank you.” You may need to explain that this is one of the challenges of being a multiple. Sharing a birthday means sharing gifts. Or sharing a birthday means not sharing gifts. Set the expectation that works for your family.

Some possible variations include:

  • One gift per guest family per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest family per birthday child.
  • One gift per guest child per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest child per birthday child.

We generally discourage that last option. Imagine that you have triplets and you’ve invited triplets to their party. Nine gifts from one family to another is unnecessary, expensive, and will likely go under-appreciated by the overwhelmed recipient children.

Take your multiples’ relationship into account

Do your twins or triplets share all their toys? They would probably enjoy shared gifts.

Do they have a strong independent streak and enjoy keeping their possessions separate? They would appreciate less elaborate individualized gifts.

Do your multiples insist that everything always be fair and equal? It may be simplest to keep gift-giving within the family and invite guests not to bring gifts or to bring donations for the local library or food pantry instead.

Mention gifts in the invitation

This invitation demonstrates twin birthday party etiquette, with the multiples specifying that a single gift is appropriate.Eliminate discomfort on the part of your guests by specifying your gift expectations in the invitation. It can feel tacky to ask for gifts, but it’s better than leaving guests wondering if they need to bring a gift per child or not.

Consider wording your invitation with something like, “We request only your presence, but if you must bring presents, limit your family to one gift for the birthday girls to share!” You’re not asking for things, but you are setting a one-gift expectation for guest families. Then, your triplets can go round robin on opening the gifts to keep things fair!

If your kids have separate friends, perhaps because they’re in different classes, you could write something like “You are being invited to Twin A and Twin B’s party as Twin B’s honoured guest. Twin A is not expecting a gift from you!”

Creative solutions

There are several ways to provide guidance to party guests on what to give as a gift to keep things easy and equal.

Jenna did a “5 and 5 party” for her son. Each friend brought $10. $5 went to charity, specifically the local children’s hospital. He used his $5 to choose a toy and picked a new train for his train set after the party. Most kids also brought a card or picture for him.

Beth and Sadia have been to or thrown book exchange parties. Each child comes to the party with one age appropriate, gender neutral, wrapped book. The birthday girls’ parents brought a few extras, just in case someone forgot.  Everyone, including the birthday girls, leaves with one wrapped book. This approach has the perk of avoiding the need for pesky goodie bags!

Build an activity center. In your invitation, let your guests know that you’re building an art center, kitchen center, or dress up center and that you’d appreciate contributions towards it. As we suggested above, have the kids take turns opening gifts. Mom and dad can open any remainder to ensure that each kid gets to open the same number of gifts.

Dana often suggests family presents for her twins’ birthdays. These are things like be board games, a collection of books, or art supplies.

Sadia’s daughters have requested canned goods for the food pantry instead of gifts, after discovering the hard way that many people feel uncomfortable arriving at birthday parties completely empty-handed. MandyE always adds a “no gifts, please” note at the bottom of her invitations. Her daughters have gotten some really great cards over the years instead of gifts and love opening them!

When You’re Attending a Party with Your Multiples

Within the multiples community

If you’re part of a close-knit multiples community, as MandyE and Jen Wood are, you’ll probably notice that there are norms in place regarding birthday gifts from twins to twins or higher order multiples. Just ask one of the other moms.

Jen Wood is a playgroup with 7 sets of twins within a year of her kids. They’ve always brought one gift per birthday kid. They also received one gift per birthday kid from each other “set” of friends. If they didn’t share a birthday they wouldn’t be expected to share a gift.

When MandyE goes to parties for multiples, she usually has her girls make a handmade card for each kid and does a larger family gift.

Sadia’s daughters usually give a gift to each birthday multiple unless they know that the multiples in question like to share their clothes and toys. In that case, they will do a more elaborate gift to all the birthday kids. Her twins’ great aunt, who has triplets, always gets the twins coordinating but non-identical pajamas from her whole family.

Gifts for singletons

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Take the size of your family and your financial and time resources into account. This isn’t just an issue for multiples. We don’t imagine that large families should feel obligated to bring a gift from each child who attends a party when siblings are invited.

When MandyE and her daughters go to singleton parties, she lets each of her girls choose a gift. Sadia tends to bring a single gift to singleton birthday kids from the whole family.

On the one occasion that her daughters brought separate gifts, the birthday girl’s mom noticed and mentioned her surprise. In this case, Sadia’s daughters felt that they had individual relationships with the birthday girl rather than being her “twin friends.” They felt very strongly that they wanted to give gifts as individuals.

Twin birthday party etiquette

The truth is that there is no universal standard on how many gifts twins should give or receive. It falls on the multiples’ parents to set expectations for their own family and their guests. Take into consideration the relationships between the children involved, whether they function more as individuals or as a set. Remember that being there to celebrate the birthday child or children is more important than the gift you bring. It really is the thought that counts.

How do you navigate the murky waters of birthday parties with multiples?

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Ask the Moms: How to Organize Kids’ Clothes

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Reader Manojna P., currently expecting twins, asked us how we organize our kids’ clothes. Organization is key. Manojna, you’re already on the right track by asking the question!

That said, reader Michelle W., who has two sets of twins, commented, “Organise… what’s ‘organise’??” Several other readers made similar comments. There are times when you need to dress your kids right out of the clean laundry hamper and that’s okay too.organize

Modify your system as children grow

Ask any two parents how to organize kids’ clothes and you’ll get two different answers, even from parents who share a home! Different organizational systems work for different families. Different systems work for the same family at different times. Don’t be afraid to change things up if what worked a month ago isn’t cutting it any more.

Some siblings share all their clothes. Others have separate clothes from day one. There is no wrong way or right way to approach this.

Early on, RachelG dressed both her son and daughter in gender-neutral stuff, so keeping their clothes apart didn’t matter. Sadia‘s girls share clothes to this day, at age 7. Wiley‘s girls are slightly different in size, but she upgrades them both at the same time. Little Allie always looks like she’s growing into her clothes, but it’s worth it for the simplicity.

Reader Kristin G. wrote, “When my [quadruplet] daughters were first born I had everything organized in drawers labeled by the type of clothing: onesies, sleepers, socks, etc. Around preschool they started picking out their own clothes, but I realized that they were only picking from the clothes at the top of the drawers. I now hang all of their tops in a closet and, because I once worked retail and can’t fathom hanging any other way, the tops are hung by color (ROYGBIV). It makes it easier for my girls to figure out what will match with their pants and skirts. For whatever reason they have figured out which tops and dresses are “shared items” and which tops belong to a specific sister (given to them for birthdays, Christmas, etc) and so far there have been no arguments over one sister wearing another sister’s special top. This, I am certain, will change once they get closer to their teen years!”

Find an organizing principle

Photo Credit: MT_bulli
Photo Credit: MT_bulli

Keep things predictable so you don’t have to scrounge up brain power in the middle of the night when a baby needs a new outfit after a diaper blowout. Keep like with like, whatever that means to you.

For Beth, organizing is her closet hobby (ker-ching!). She reorganizes closets and drawers as often as once a month, searching for that perfect set up. She’s still searching, but the process of seeking order works for her. Check out the great closet section dividers she made.

Jen Wood has always hung all her boys’ clothes except for diapers and underwear. When they were in infant sizes, she organized clothes by size with dividers. She stores similar/coordinating outfits together.

SaraBeth has one drawer for pajamas, one for tops and one for pants. She has two separate drawers for fall/winter clothes in the next size up and spring/summer clothes.

Sadia has one small drawer of pajamas, one small drawer of socks and panties, one large drawer of tops, one large drawer of bottoms and dance clothes. Dresses, jackets and dress-up clothes are hung on a clothes rack inside the closet, since the built-in rod is too high for her daughters to reach.

RachelG doesn’t have a dresser. She confesses that she lives out of bins and baskets and is unsatisfied with the current arrangement.

A note of caution. What makes sense to you may not make sense to your spouse, other caregivers or even the (older) children themselves. Balance the effort of finding a compromise with the effort of finding the clothes you need. If you’re the primary caregiver and your spouse only needs to look for baby clothes every few days, do it your way. If you anticipate a more equitable division of duties, talk it through until you find a mutually agreeable system. If your children are old enough to be responsible for dressing themselves and/or putting their own clothes away, let them have a say in how things are organized. Sadia‘s daughters tried sorting everything by colour alone before they agreed that it wasn’t a sustainable system.

Systems by developmental stage

Infants

Infant clothes may be the easiest to sort because you don’t have little hands constantly undoing your work. They’re also the hardest because you don’t really know what to expect. Aim for convenience. If you’re going to be changing your babies’ diapers and clothes on a changing table, store clothes and diapers within reach of (or inside) the changing table. If, after the babies show up, you realize you’re more of a sit-on-the-floor changer, move the clothes around to put them within reach. Don’t forget to have a convenient laundry hamper nearby for the dirty clothes!

Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl
Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl

Itty bitty clothes may not be worth folding. If you’re the type of person who folds your panties, fold those preemie and newborn shirts and pants and bloomers to your heart’s content. If you think that’s ridiculous, consider storing onesies, burp clothes and cloth diapers flat (or even crumpled, if you have the room) while hanging footie pajamas and other outfits. MandyE hangs just about everything that can be hung.

We all streamline where we can. For pants and onesies that went together to make a single outfit, Sadia used to place the pants flat on the onesie, fold both in half together once, and place them in the drawer. There was no need to search for the pieces of the outfit because they were always stored together.

RebeccaD started out with the top drawer for daytime clothes, the second drawer for nighttime clothes and the third drawer for bundling layers. When her fraternal boys got to be different sizes, she switched her system. Her top drawer became for diapering stuff, medicines, and the like. The second drawer was for Baby B and the third drawer, for Baby A.

Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them. Photo Credit: katypearce
Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them.
Photo Credit: katypearce

Beth uses a closet and tall dresser for her boy/girl twins. The top drawer has 3 baskets, one each for her socks, his socks and hats, bibs, and whatever else lands in there. The next drawer down has her pants on the left and his on the right. The next drawer down is clothes they will grow into soon. Most baby clothes go in the closet, with each baby having his or her own rod. Within each section Beth groups onesies, then shirts, then overalls and dresses and, finally, pajamas.

Mytwintopia takes a minimalist approach. She limits her daughters’ wardrobe to enough everyday clothes for one week. That way she doesn’t procastinate with laundry or end up with too many clothes. She hangs almost everything, and hangs the clothes complete outfits on each hanger to avoid the struggle to match clothes in the morning. The underwear and socks go in bins or drawers in the same closet. For now, the girls do decide who owns which item without parental intervention.

Toddlers

An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids' clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Photo Credit: peyri
An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids’ clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Sadia uses this technique, but needs to tidy her daughters’ drawers at least once a week because items have come unfolded.
Photo Credit: peyri

Toddlers’ clothes can be tricky. You may find yourself needing to toddlerproof your clothing storage if clothes turn out to be an obsession. Sadia had to put child locks on her daughters’ dresser drawers because of midnight organizing extravaganzas on the part of her daughter M. Shoes had to go in a childproofed drawer too, after Sadia caught both girls trying on different shoes in the middle of the night.

Generally, though, infant clothing organization strategies still hold.

Your kids’ growth will probably slow and you won’t have to switch to the next size up quite as often. However, as your toddlers lose their baby pudginess and begin to run around, you may discover that you need to be pickier about finding clothes that will stay on and be comfortable. Around this age, those of us with slimmer children can find that pants and skirts with adjustable waists work best.

If your kids share clothes, there’s no need to find a system to keep them separated. Many boy/girl twins, though, will have separate clothes, especially as they get older. Also, your twins may end up being drastically different sizes such that they’re wearing different sized clothes. They may simply have different preferences, or you may choose for each twin to have individual clothes. In each of these cases, it may be simplest to organize all your multiples’ clothes similarly, for the sake of consistency, as Beth described doing above.

Preschool and school age

This is exactly what an elementary schooler's closet often looks like. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it's winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There's overflow on the floor, which is why Mommy needs to come in an enforce cleanup every so often. Photo Credit: master phillip
This is exactly how an elementary school kid’s closet often looks. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it’s winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There’s overflow on the floor, blissfully ignored by the kids in question, which is why Mommy needs to come in and enforce cleanup every so often.
Photo Credit: master phillip

Reader Nancy C. commented on our Facebook page, saying, “When they shared a room, each had a dresser and half the closet.  Although identical, my boys did not wear the same clothes as each other. In fact, they would adamantly protest if I had accidentally put one of their brother’s shirts in with their shirts.”

Mommy Esq. started out with her boy/girl twins splitting their closet. One had the upper half, the other the lower. Each had a drawer. As she points out, “That only works though for the ages/stages where mom dresses them. Now everything has to be at their height since they pick their own clothes.

Sadia’s daughters, at 7, are old enough to dress themselves. They share everything but panties and socks because they have different preferences for those items. All their clothes are within reach of the children. They have a clothes rack inside their closet since they can’t reach the built-in rod. They share their drawers. Their socks and panties get lumped together; they know which belong to whom.

Sadia is working toward giving her girls complete ownership of their clothes, apart from wash/dry time. She still helps them fold clothes, but putting them away is completely the children’s responsibility. If the girls complain that they can’t find room for things, she encourages them to purge items they no longer wear to make room. Sadia no longer answers the question, “Where is my [insert name of clothing item here]?” mostly by responding with, “I am out of the business of knowing where your clothes are. Your clothes, your business.” If a child wants to be sure a particular item of clothing is ready to wear on a certain day, she must give Mommy at least 24 hours notice.

Claroux also has 7-year-old girls. She writes:

They share an 8-drawer dresser. I have these nylon bins from Ikea in each drawer to separate the sizes since they wear two different sizes now. That is, the underwear drawer contains a bin for M’s panties, a bin for C’s panties and a bin for undershirts. The same is true for socks, pajamas, leggings and tights).

Everything else is hung by type (dresses, pants, skirts, tops) and then grouped by color. That makes it easier if one is looking for their ‘purple soccer shirt’. As far as ownership of each item, they just know what fits them and what doesn’t.

Teens

The oldest of our combined kids is Sundy‘s son, making her the resident expert on all things teen. In short, teenagers are old enough to take care of their own clothes. Arrangements can run the gamut from the teen being required to wash, dry, fold and store his or her own clothes to being required to honour Mom’s organization scheme. As above, you’ll make more headway partnering with your child to develop a system that’s mutually agreeable than by decreeing a system from on high.

Children of different ages

Several of us with multiples often have kids of different ages living under the same roof.

When Wiley‘s oldest son, Trajan, outgrows things, they are stored in boxes for his younger brother Chiron. Once Chiron has outgrown those clothes, with a few exceptions kept for his younger twin sisters, they are immediately evicted to find new homes with children that fit them.

For day to day storage, Elizabeth uses dressers in each room. Her two older boys share a room so their clothes are kept together. They wear the same shirt size but different pant sizes. They each know what size they need and check the tags. She puts labels on each drawer so they can put away their own clothes. Mom doesn’t care if the clothes are folded but the drawer has to be able to close. Key to making any system work is knowing which battles are worth fighting!

Elizabeth’s 2-year-old Oliver’s clothes are in a labeled dresser in his room. The boy/girl twins share a dresser. The top drawers are boy clothes and the bottom drawers are girl clothes.

All the kids’ shoes and socks are kept in baskets by the garage door. Elizabeth’s house has a mud room with a bench and shelves, so storing them there is easy. Backpacks, Elizabeth’s purse, the diaper bag, and infant carseats are also kept in the mud room. One shelf in the mud room is filled with kids toiletries (brush, hair spray, lotion, tooth paste, tooth brushes). The children use the half bath in the mud room for teeth and hair. She organized things this way so that everything the family needed to get out the door is in one contained place. She hated running all over the house for shoes and trying to keep up with who still needed to brush their teeth.

By size, season and child

jackets
Winter jackets can be very bulky to store, so consider using space saver bags from which you can suck out the air with your vacuum cleaner hose. The bags will expand some during storage, but not if they’re packed together tightly enough in some out-of-the-way corner!
Photo Credit: dharder9475

Most of us have various sizes of children’s clothes in the house, even if we have only one size and gender of children. Whether we have hand-me-downs from friends and family, clueless friends who bought clothes much too big, or we’ve shopped in advance of the next growth spurt, we likely have clothes that aren’t in circulation.

All the HDYDI moms divide kid clothes in our houses into those that currently fit, those that are too big and those that are too small. Those that don’t fit are separated out and put away. Some of us also sort things by season, putting away bulky coats in the summer and shorts and sleeveless tops in the winter. Let’s talk about how to manage the clothes that aren’t in use.

Clothes to grow into

Photo Credit: if winter ends
You could store future sized clothes with the tag on for easy identification, but it’s wise to wash new clothes before dressing a baby in them, since sizing can irritate delicate skin.Photo Credit: if winter ends

To manage clothes that don’t yet fit, SaraBeth and Sadia both use big plastic bins stored in the garage, sorted by size and clearly labeled. Victoria has a different bin for each size, which makes it very simple to grab the next size she needs. With space at a premium in ldskatelyn‘s apartment, she stores some extra clothes at her in-laws’ house.

SarahP has three drawers in her kids’ dressers that contain both the size they’re currently wearing and the next size up. The rest of the clothes are organized by age in a box in storage. She always has the next size up because she’s found that her kids grow into some items faster than others depending on the brand. Clothing labels that display the same size may be attached to drastically different sized clothing.

Jen Wood keeps the next size of clothing in her sons’ closet. She always has a bin with the next sizes, picked up at clearance or on resale, plus hand-me-downs. She goes through the bin as needed.

Wiley has plastic sweater boxes from the Container Store which are all labelled by gender, size, and type of contents. Current clothes are kept in each child’s dresser or closet. The next size up resides in its boxes in the top of the closets while other sizes are stored outside.

Outgrown

Photo Credit: raffik
Photo Credit: raffik

If you have or are planning to have more kids, it makes sense to hold onto outgrown clothes for the next child. Otherwise, purge, purge, purge!

SarahP and many of the other moms donate their clothes to friends, Goodwill, or other charities. SaraBeth divides her kids outgrown clothes by gender (boy, girl and neutral) to simplify passing them on.

When Victoria notices that items are getting too small, she puts them aside to be donated and take out the next larger size. For instance, if she’s dressing her girls and notices that the pants she tries on are too small, she puts them aside immediately and takes out a larger pair of pants. If she didn’t do it right away, it could get out of control because she’d forget.

Sadia didn’t know any other girl/girl twins in her area who were smaller than hers, so she ended up dividing up all their matching outfits from the first year (except two preemie footies and two Christmas dresses kept for sentimental reasons). She sent each of two friends across the country a huge diaper box filled with baby clothes. She now keeps a donation bin in the kitchen next to the trash and recycling to make it part of daily life to identify things ready to be rehomed.

RebeccaD goes through her kids’ drawers to move out the old and bring in the new about every 3 months. “The key,” she says, “is to get rid of stuff immediately and be realistic about how many clothes your kids really need. Mine are only in T-shirts and diapers unless we leave the house anyway.”

Elizabeth has an especially effective system for handling hand-me-downs. She and her sister-in-law have 5 boys between them, all very close in age. They share clothes. They keep them organized by size in clear plastic tubs with lids. After an item has been outgrown it gets washed and thrown back in the tub. They don’t separate by season.

Once a size has been completely outgrown by one boy, the next mom who needs the size stores the tub. The sisters-in-law use their individual judgment as to when to get rid of an item or replace it. If they have a sentimental attachment to a particular outfit, they either keep it out of the bin or mark the tag with the word “save”. As you might imagine, this has worked really well for them.

Now that the biggest boys are getting older and have an opinion as to what they want to wear, they do find themselves buying and keeping more clothes. Elizabeth still keeps them sorted by size in tubs to hand down to 2-year-old Oliver.

Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig
Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig

How to organize kids’  clothes, in summary

The short version of everything we’ve said is this:

  • Avoid clutter.
    • Sort clothes by size.
    • Keep handy only those clothes that fit.
    • Give away outgrown clothes unless they will be reused in your home.
    • Don’t keep more than you need or have space for.
  • Find a system that works for you.
    • Drawers, hangers, or some combination of those two seem the norm for current clothes.
    • For clothes that don’t fit, labeled bins work well.
    • Pick your battles.
  • Change the system when it stops working.

How do you manage your kids’ clothes?

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